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B1G/ACC Challenge Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Penn State

The Lions look to defend home court against the hot-shooting Hokies.

Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA)

Date/Time: Wednesday, December 3 - 7:15 p.m. ET

Location: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, PA

TV: ESPNU

Getting to know Virginia Tech

The Hokies are off to a pretty lousy start this season considering that the team is shooting over 45 percent from three-point range. Junior guard Adam Smith is hitting half of his shots from beyond the arc while leading his team with 14.3 points per game. Freshman swingman Justin Bibbs is off to a hot start to his career with 12-of-17 three-pointers made and 12.2 points per game. Up front, Joey van Zegeren provides some solid shot blocking and rebounding while also contributing 10.8 points per game.

With all that scoring, it's hard to figure out how Virginia Tech already got blown out by Northern Iowa (KenPom No. 33) and lost a close decision to Appalachian State (No. 312)... until you look at some other stats. Not only have the Hokies hit just 61 percent of their free throws so far, but they also are one of the worst rebounding teams in the country. Besides the 6'10" van Zegeren, not another member of the Virginia Tech starting five is above 6'5" in height. The team also turns the ball over on a horrible 23 percent of possessions.

What to watch for

Larger sample sizes tend to balance things out, but right now this is a pretty extreme Virginia Tech squad. Although Penn State has lost just one game so far, they've let a lot of inferior opponents hang close because of poor three-point defense. If Tech's hot start is not a fluke, that bugaboo could raise its ugly head once again. The Lions should be able to counter with an offensive attack that is starting to hum. D.J. Newbill has refined his jump shot so that it's now lethal from 15 feet away as well as from beyond the arc. He's getting a lot of help this season from Brandon Taylor who can score from the post as well as the perimeter.

The small Virginia Tech lineup should play right into Penn State coach Pat Chambers' hands. Although Taylor is a small forward by trade, the Lions have had success in second half comebacks by playing him at the four with Ross Travis at the five. Against the Hokies, Chambers can play a lineup like that for the whole game and take advantage of Taylor's size in the post. In fact, Penn State may have to play that three-guard lineup just to cover Tech's shooting.

Projected starting lineups

Virginia Tech Penn State
PG 6'4" Devin Wilson PG 6'4" D.J. Newbill
SG 6'1" Adam Smith SG 6'1" Shep Garner
SF 6'3" Malik Mueller SF 6'6" Brandon Taylor
PF 6'5" Ahmed Hill PF 6'7" Ross Travis
C 6'10" Joey van Zegeren C 6'9" Donovon Jack

Predicition

I can see the Hokies shooting the lights out and stealing one from the Lions. It's not as though Penn State has been able to pull away from anyone this season. Still, the Lions' offense has looked fierce enough to keep up with Tech's shooting. Penn State wins another close one at home, 77-73